hi·​a·​tus | \ hī-ˈā-təs How to pronounce hiatus (audio) \

Definition of hiatus

1a : a break in or as if in a material object : gap the weedy hiatus between the town and the railroad— Willa Cather the hiatus between the theory and the practice of the party— J. G. Colton
b biology : a gap or passage in an anatomical part or organ
2a : an interruption in time or continuity : break especially : a period when something (such as a program or activity) is suspended or interrupted after a 5-year hiatus from writing a summer hiatus
b : the occurrence of two vowel sounds without pause or intervening consonantal sound

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Did You Know?

Hiatus comes from "hiare," a Latin verb meaning "to gape" or "to yawn," and first appeared in English in the middle of the 16th century. Originally, the word referred to a gap or opening in something, such as a cave opening in a cliff. In the 18th century, Laurence Sterne used the word humorously in his novel Tristram Shandy, writing of "the hiatus in Phutatorius's breeches." These days, "hiatus" is usually used in a temporal sense to refer to a pause or interruption (as in a song), or a period during which an activity is temporarily suspended (such as a hiatus from teaching).

Examples of hiatus in a Sentence

The band is making an album again after a five-year hiatus. steam was rising from an hiatus in the ground
Recent Examples on the Web After a one-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Best Ranger Competition has returned. Fox News, "Soldiers from all over square off in grueling 'Best Ranger' competition after pandemic hiatus," 18 Apr. 2021 After a two-year hiatus from atop the Bowl Subdivision, last year's team built a legitimate case for being ranked among the best in program history. USA Today, "Alabama football lost some star power, so watching national champions try to repeat will be fascinating," 16 Apr. 2021 After a one-year hiatus, the monument resumes the popular tours starting May 28. Brian Maffly, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Timpanogos Cave tours to resume next month," 16 Apr. 2021 After a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lawrence Taylor Throwback Celebrity Golf Weekend is returning bigger and better than ever. Emmett Hall, sun-sentinel.com, "Lawrence Taylor celebrity golf weekend returns to the links," 13 Apr. 2021 After a one-year hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic, the race resumed as a safe and joyous celebration for 150 participants on March 20. BostonGlobe.com, "Are the competitors at the Tuckerman Inferno crazy? ‘It’s a matter of perspective’," 27 Mar. 2021 Minnesota students will once again be taking standardized tests this spring after a one-year hiatus. Mara Klecker, Star Tribune, "Minnesota schools prepare for in-person standardized tests," 20 Mar. 2021 The first true day of March Madness has returned after a two-year hiatus, and the men's NCAA Tournament first round is undoubtedly delivering the excitement tied to its moniker. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, "March Madness: Winners and losers from the men's NCAA tournament first round," 20 Mar. 2021 When Obama was elected, many people said that, after an eight-year hiatus, America would rejoin the world. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, "‘Patriot’ games, &c.," 19 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hiatus.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of hiatus

1563, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for hiatus

Latin, from hiare to yawn — more at yawn

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Last Updated

26 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Hiatus.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hiatus. Accessed 6 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for hiatus



English Language Learners Definition of hiatus

: a period of time when something (such as an activity or program) is stopped


hi·​a·​tus | \ hī-ˈāt-əs How to pronounce hiatus (audio) \

Medical Definition of hiatus

: a gap or passage through an anatomical part or organ especially : an opening through which another part or organ passes (such as the opening in the diaphragm through which the esophagus and vagus nerves pass)

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